By Jay Kimelman of Xero
When extreme weather events occur we’re often reminded that no one is immune to Mother Nature’s fury. Last year, when Hurricane Matthew was churning towards the Southeastern United States, I thought about how merciless extreme weather events can be as I prepared my Florida-based accounting business for the worst.
While the U.S. was incredibly lucky to evade the full extent of devastation Hurricane Matthew was predicted to inflict on the country by forecasters, you never know how lucky you’ll be next time. With a possibly harsh winter approaching, there’s no better time than now for business owners to evaluate and improve their level of disaster readiness. It’s important for business owners to be prepared and know what they need to do when a natural disaster is looming.
Here are some best practices for small business owners when it comes to protecting your business against extreme weather events.
To Be Completed Now And Annually
In order to protect yourself against loss or damage to your physical assets due to a natural disaster, start by looking at the software and technology you use in your business. By using cloud software, you’ll enjoy benefits beyond natural disaster preparedness – including the ability to work from anywhere at anytime. With your important data stored in protected offsite servers, you’ll have no worries about being prepared for a disaster. When getting back online after an extreme weather event all you’ll need is a device with a browser and an internet connection.
Complete a regular inventory of your business’ assets – especially the valuable ones. Document proof of their existence for any potential insurance claim by keeping records of purchase, photos and videos. In this instance, a cloud storage service proves particularly helpful because you don’t have to worry about storing or holding onto physical receipts or photos. On the topic of insurance, check to see whether you have enough coverage for your contents, making sure to read the fine print very carefully. Find out whether you have a policy or policies in place to cover for loss of income and business continuation. Checking these things with your insurance agent can help you rest easy.
Once you’ve completed this check-in, set a date in your calendar to complete a review of your insurance and assets in another twelve months time. This way, should an extreme weather event occur, you’ll be able to focus on the more important things.
Prepare For The Event
Protecting yourself, your loved ones and your employees should be your number one priority in the event of extreme weather. With enough warning though, you may have time to prepare your workplace for the brunt of a storm or whatever might be heading your way. For physical assets like inventory, make sure they are stored securely so as to minimize damage to the inventory and surrounds. The same goes for any equipment, including computing equipment.
If you have servers, you’ll need to perform a full system backup, take the backup offsite on a usb drive or tape and keep somewhere secure. Then, shutdown the systems. You’ll also need to perform a full system backup of any desktop or laptop computers with important data stored on the hard drive onto a USB drive and take it offsite. A backup is not a backup unless you can restore it – verify your backups are valid by testing them and restoring a sample of the files. If you’ve got cloud document storage, locate important papers that you don’t already have an online record of and upload them to the cloud for easy retrieval.
Follow local official instructions and, in order to prepare for power outages, keep your mobile and computer devices charged as well as USB battery packs if you have them.
After The Storm
Once it’s safe to return to your business, assess and document any damage. Contact your insurance agent or company if the need arises to place a claim. If it’s safe to re-open your business and you’ve got servers, start them up. Try to get back into the swing of things. Getting back into your routine will help reinstate a sense of normalcy after this stressful time.
If the unthinkable happens and your business location suffers catastrophic damage, depending on your business, you may be able to operate immediately. If possible, re-establish any IT infrastructure and buy a new server if you had one, then install all software and restore backups. These are, of course, all steps which can be skipped if using cloud solutions.
Not all extreme weather events can be predicted with ample enough warning. Equip your business now with the technology and adequate insurance cover in order to protect your livelihood.
Jay Kimelman is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of the digital CPA, a technology focused accounting firm. Jay has served in the role of CFO, CIO and business owner. Jay’s passion is helping other bookkeepers, accountants and CPA firms utilize technology to support themselves and their clients do beautiful business. Jay was awarded the Xero MVP award in 2016 and now serves as a Xero Ambassador.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.